Koyomi Araragi, a third-year high school student, manages to survive a vampire attack with the help of Meme Oshino, a strange man residing in an abandoned building. Though being saved from vampirism and now a human again, several side effects such as superhuman healing abilities and enhanced vision still remain. Regardless, Araragi tries to live the life of a normal student, with the help of his friend and the class president, Tsubasa Hanekawa.
When fellow classmate Hitagi Senjougahara falls down the stairs and is caught by Araragi, the boy realizes that the girl is unnaturally weightless. Despite Senjougahara's protests, Araragi insists he help her, deciding to enlist the aid of Oshino, the very man who had once helped him with his own predicament.
Through several tales involving demons and gods, Bakemonogatari follows Araragi as he attempts to help those who suffer from supernatural maladies.
"To be blunt, I just enjoy talking to you... so I want to talk with you more."
"If our opinions clash, let's talk it over." (Dialogue from episode 5)
'Bakemonogatari', cleverly translated as 'Ghostory' or 'Monstory', is about five not-so-normal girls that Araragi Koyomi, a vampire himself, encounters and attempt to save from oddities possessing them.
The main characters of 'Bakemonogatari' are among the most unique and complex I have yet to encounter.
Heroine Senjougahara Hitagi is a tsundere like half of all modern heroines in anime, but she is also 「ドS」, a sadist to an extreme degree, which is more common for side characters and rare for heroines.
Our protagonist, as expected, is rather on the masochist side who takes constant verbal abuse from Senjougahara.
What makes the couple extraordinary, is that Senjougahara is often boke while Araragi is tsukkomi. Traditional Japanese stand-up comedy consists of a duo: One takes the "boke" role who says something stupid while the "tsukommi" role points out the flaws in boke's argument, often with a violent slap in the head.
Yes, that's right. Boke is masochist by nature and often not very intelligent, while tsukommi is sadist by nature and often more observant.
The leading couple in this series, on the other hand, take turns with the roles. It is particularly interesting when the sadist and intelligent Senjougahara purposefully take on the boke role and overwhelms tsukkomi. Such as making insulting statements that sound flawed, but when Araragi tries to make a comeback, he realizes what she said was true. Or Senjougahara makes a blatantly flawed statement just to hurt Araragi, and his comeback fall into deaf ears. And of course, plenty of intentional boke or tease spoken with so much authority that Araragi just gives up and let it slide.
The unlikely toggling of comedy roles were delivered extremely well, and this back and forth interaction between the leading couple is a key part of this show's appeal.
The remaining four main characters are not as complex as the leading couple, but they all have their own unique issues that drive the story,each with distinct personalities that made them memorable.
There are 6 main characters in this series, and total of only 5 side/peripheral characters (Meme, Shinobu, two sisters, and Senjougahara's father) in the whole series. The limited character headcount made thorough character development possible despite being an arc-based series.
Simply put, half the show is about the romantic relationship between the Senjougahara and Araragi.
The other half is about a constant argument between two values: The rational vs the idealistic, with Araragi as Mr. Nice Guy seeking happy end for everyone. Solution of supernatural oddities as the topic of the argument.
Hachikuji, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa's arcs developed the relationship of leading couple while offering new topics to the story.
The only flaw in the story in my opinion, is that Sengoku's arc was pretty much by itself, and contributed very little to the whole series other than loli and moe fan service.
Each arc is an incident focusing on a different girl, but all the arcs combine to show a whole picture of Araragi and Senjougahara closing their personal distances.
"Bakemonogatari" is essentially a verbal performance with visual support. Story is driven by back and forth debate on various issues.
With verbal performance playing such a big role in this show, voice acting is taken to a whole new level in this series.
Every characters' voices fit perfectly, and not only that, distinct tones and nuance of speech establish unique impressions for every single character. The characters speak so fast in this series with lots of tongue twisters, but the seiyuu cast had done a wonderful job in keeping up. I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe voice acting in this series as epic.
Music score in 'Bakemonogatari' has a generally consistent ambient feel to it with a nice flow. Other than intense music for action scenes, they don't particularly set the mood or enhance drama as what I usually consider to be strong BGM for anime, but the usually upbeat sounds in the background set the quick pace for dialogue, and make conversations all the more engaging.
OP song "Staple Stable" is one of the best anime opening theme song by a seiyuu, ever. Really memorable tune accompanied by great vocal and lyric by meg rock was simply amazing.
The other four OPs sang by seiyuu of each arc heroines were nowhere as impressive as "Staple Stable", but offers refreshment value to the OPs, and fits each character perfectly.
ED song's lyric made little sense at first, but its meaning was unveiled in a conversation between the leading couple in a certain episode, and it turned out to very suitable for the series. The two Senjougahara theme songs (OP1, ED) were masterpieces.
Animation in 'Bakemonogatari' mainly serve as a visual aid to the verbal performance, and it proved to be very effective.
Visuals for the anime got somewhat of an "art house film" treatment. There were many abstract and surreal scenes, unconventional cuts, and intriguing camera angles that made the viewing experience very pleasant. It's the perfected form of SHAFT's signature style.
Character designs were attractive, and main characters had visually shown a wide range of emotion that further portrays the character's state of mind.
The only complaint I have with the animation is the use of photographs/videos of real-life imagery. At the risk of sounding like a super-otaku, I would say 3D images do not belong in the world of 2D.
As a fansubber and having seen thousands of hours of fan/professionally translated works, I can tell you that at least 10% of the meaning is lost in translation, no matter how well translated. In conversation/narration driven series filled with wordplay and metaphors, at least 20% of the meaning, therefore enjoyability, will inevitably be lost to non-Japanese speakers.
Still, 'Bakemonogatari' is a true masterpiece with experimental production that actually worked. Attention was paid to the tiniest details, and a story well-told. Truly amazing direction by Shinbou Akiyuki left us with so many memorable scenes, and this will definitely be a series to be remembered.
The 8-month wait for the final three episodes were excruciating, but the ending was so satisfying that it almost made it worth the absurd wait. Given the commercial success 'Bakemonogatari' has achieved, I will be hoping for the remaining novels in the series to be animated. Possibly 'Kizumonogatari' OVA/film and 'Nisemonogatari' as a sequel season.
To be blunt, I just enjoyed listening to them... so I want to listen to them more.
For every medium, there are few masterpieces that transcend the genre and become something special. Since I consider anime, as a genre, to be just as legitimate an art form (despite the bad rep it often gets), I will also review Bakemonogatari as a work of art, and it is irrefutably one of the special few anime series that fully capitalize on the strengths of the anime medium.
People have complained that the story is too episodic, too disjointed. However, the virtue of Bakemonogatari's storyline is that it is so minimal. In all senses, this anime is a character-based experimental, and an elaborate
storyline would actually detract from that experience. There are plenty of anime out there that thrive on plot twists and progression that keep the viewer on their seats, but Bakemonogatari isn't one. The episodic storyline is a brilliant framing device for character development and nothing more, which works out perfectly for this particular anime.
As usual Studio SHAFT splurged on art. This is definitely a series to be enjoyed in high-definition, preferably with the room lights turned off. Anime, by definition, is a genre segregated from realism. The beauty of anime as a medium is that every cut is animated, so that the blemishes, imperfections, and limitations of reality can be omitted in favor of stylized, beautified perfection. Anime art style that attempts to be too realistic are bound to lose that edge and, naturally, pale in comparison to live-action works featuring comparable visuals. Anime that go all in on stylizing can often seem distracting and too detached from reality. With all of that in consideration, Bakemonogatari is one of the few shining masterpieces of the anime genre that hits the sweet spot. Everything in this anime is crisp and beautiful, from the characters to the slightest scenery detail. What would have seemed tacky when drawn are boldly stylized and symbolized, rather than allowed to compromise the atmosphere. For example, people have complained about the cuts to photographs and abstract diagrams that pop up frequently. But imagine if all of those were actually animated; it would have been clunky and distracting from the dialog. For example, Senjougahara's mother isn't a character in this anime, therefore having an designed, animated character to her credit would distract from the very small and tight cast. I don't know how much budget went into this production, but they sure splurged where it was needed (characters, scenery-porn sequences, pivotal action sequences) and were decisive in radically minimizing what would have been superfluous.
There is quite a rave about Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari and Staple Stable, and they are indeed catchy and appropriate opening/ending. Much more underrated are the mundane, ambient sound design of this anime. Just as Bakemonogatari should ideally be viewed in high-quality settings, so it should be heard with at least "nice" audio. Perhaps I had the fortune/misfortune of being an impeccable audiophile and watched the series with headphones that cost me half a fortune, but everyone should at least watch Bakemonogatari with real speakers or decent headphones. This is a series that can only be fully appreciated when the viewer is immersed in it, and laptop speakers simply won't do.
Having said all of that, the non-intrusive BGM and ambient sounds do a perfect job of accentuating the dialog/situation without, again, distracting from what is really important. Perhaps the best example is in the TV finale, where the BGM swells and fades without the viewers really noticing because they are so perfectly integrated with the ebb and flow of verbal/situational push and pull between the two leads.
The voice acting, without even the need to elaborate, are top-mark. The seiyuu for Koyomi is appropriately serious, jocular, and reflective. I especially enjoyed the sequences and inserts in which Koyomi is thinking selfish/perverted/silly thoughts. Excellent sound designing makes it sound like Koyomi's voice is really ringing inside my head, adding to the effect and how identifiable his character is. Voice acting for Senjougahara seemed a bit too fragile and breathy at first, but it was revealed to be not the fault of the seiyuu, but part of character development, but more on that will border on spoiling. Let me just add that voice acting for both leads hit the sweet spot at least by the TV finale.
All of the other elements, story, art, and sound, up to now were accompaniments to the brilliant characters of Bakemonogatari. If those elements had their virtue in garnishing the backgrounds of this anime, the characters' virtue lie in their shocking assertiveness and charisma.
Koyomi - Of all anime leads I've seen, he is one of the few truly-believable leads that are likeable. He is objectively decent-looking and decently dressed, not, as are many a blue-haired shounen characters, outrageously flamboyant. He is not an outspoken paragon of bravery and power. He is even a bit of a sociopath. However, the subtle inner stability he shows makes him stronger than Goku or Lelouch in my opinion. He isn't a social butterfly, but he would never seriously harm another person. Though he is a bit of a pervert, just like the rest of us, the viewers can't picture him ever being disloyal to his romantic partner. Koyomi's inner strength and stability are what keeps this series from becoming a typical harem anime, and such qualities of his character are what makes the viewer so strongly and ineffably identify with him.
Senjougahara - First of all, her name is awesome, just phonetically. I read that it means something like "battlefield" in Japanese, but it sounds so feminine and appropriate to her character. With that aside, if Koyomi is the steady, dependable drummer keeping beat to the Bakemonogatari band, Senjougahara is the lead vocalist that captures and enthralls the viewer. Anime is, more than anything, a visual art, so it is of course important that her every frame is perfected and beautified with adoration. Not only is she one of the most flawlessly beautiful female characters in anime, the way she poses and moves is also idealized. Imagine a girl who never does anything unsightly: never makes an unflattering face, is never without makeup (or always looks perfect without one), never goes to the bathroom, you get the idea, and that would be Senjougahara. Again, the creators of Bakemonogatari really cashed in on this aspect of anime to create a visually flawless female lead. Utter perfection, however, isn't always likeable, as none of us are perfect. Senjougahara, therefore, needs some profound flaw in order to offset her physical perfection, and that's when her character development comes into play. I won't say much more on that for fear of spoiling, but she exists not as a perfect, standalone being, but someone who absolutely depends on Koyomi to complete her. That's why their interactions work, even though they should logically have zero reason to even know each other. Senjougahara is the modern Yamato Nadeshiko, though the usage of that term to describe her may be controversial. The numerous attempts to categorize her as a tsundere/kuudere/yandere/whaeverdere have all failed because her character is grounded not on a trope, but a real-life ideal of feminine beauty. She is the culmination, or rather, an amalgamation, of decades of anime heroines that captured the viewers, male and female alike. Senjougahara and Koyomi have such subtle and inexplicable chemistry because they are both subtle, ultimately mysterious characters.
This is the one category where I admit that the 10/10 is highly subjective. Objectively, Bakemonogatari is a top-quality art form, and I firmly believe that high-profile artists, filmmakers, etc. would appreciate that Bakemonogatari is the epitome of modern anime counterculture (Suzumiya Haruhi being the mainstream crystallization of modern anime). However, you have to be looking for the right thing to enjoy this anime. If the anime you typically enjoy are Naruto, TTGL, etc. (not that they aren't fantastic either), Bakemonogatari is perhaps not for you. This series is really for people who have watched a lot of anime, perhaps even an otaku, and were drawn to the more sophisticated, post-modern aspect of the genre as a whole. It is, in a way, analogous to how Mozart is universally loved (for a good reason!), while composers like Hindemith appeal strongly to those who have developed a taste in classical music. I personally pick this series as the number one anime of all time (along with NGE) because it had all I was looking for: deep, subtle characters, platonic romance, somewhat surreal atmosphere, idealization only possible in anime, wit, and that pinch of sociopathy shown in each character, as are present in every human being. There isn't one thing about this anime that is the "hook" (though, if I had to pick one, I'd go with SENJOUGAHARA FASCINATION). Rather, every aspect of it plays its role perfectly to create a gestalt whole. Oh, and by the way, if you're like me and are desperately looking for non-moe, non-loli (getting harder and harder to find) anime made in 21st century, welcome to Bakemonogatari. This series is for mature viewers looking for a subtle, yet decisively anime experience.
Overall, if you think yourself the discriminating, intellectual beta-component of modern society (who also happens to watch anime), you will love this series. It's a love or hate type of anime, in my opinion, and if you are the type of person this show caters to, you will come to thoroughly appreciate every aspect of the show, besides just Senjougahara. If you're not, that doesn't mean you're not as cultured or some nonsense; just need to find your anime masterpiece, as I found Bakemonogatari.
THIS REVIEW IS FOR ALL SEASONS, AS SUCH, IT CONTAINS SPOILERS
Monogatari takes place in a city populated by about 20 people, cardboard cutouts, and kanji characters, and follows the story of Koyomi Araragi as he meets girls who have supernatural oddity-related issues in their lives and tries to help them.
I am not a fan of the Monogatari anime, but I will get into why later in this review.
The characters are all pretty much what you'd expect from a harem anime. There's the selfless main character, the Tsundere girlfriend, the shy Moe girl who turns out to actually be psycho and manipulative, the smart girl who
wears glasses (for a brief time anyway), the little sister(s), the athletic girl, the lesbian, etc.
However, most of them are written with more nuance than what you'd expect, as in, they get backstories, but on a basic level, I don't feel like it's any deeper than the character backstories from any other anime. But they do have a bit more depth than what you'd expect from a harem show, meaning they are not in a round-the-clock quest for the main character's dick. I'm not a fan of the characters (except for Kaiki Deishuu and maybe Meme Oshino), and don't think they're anything noteworthy, but I do give the writer credit for that.
The dialogue is also the same as what you'd expect from an anime. Talking about motivations, delivering exposition, and bantering whenever there's nothing going on. The difference is that most the show is just that, talking, with nothing else going on. However, I don't have that much of a problem with that aspect and some of the dialogue is occasionally funny. Nevertheless, even then, the dialogue often tends to go in circles and isn't strong enough to carry the whole show in my opinion, but more on that later.
When it comes to the story, however, a lot of the story arcs start out with potential, but then they end up focusing more on the dialogue rather than doing something interesting with the premise, and then end unmemorably. The biggest example of this is in Monogatari Second Season's Mayoi Jiangshi arc.
Surprisingly enough, despite the first scene of this show being a 15-20 second-long panty shot, there isn't actually all that much fanservice. However, when there is, it's rather unappealing.
Two running gags with Koyomi include going out and molesting Mayoi, who is 11, and planning on tricking his little sisters into being molested by him, and he suffers no real comeuppance for it. I'd say it's refreshing to have a subversion as a change of pace from the typical harem humor wherein the main character does something perverted by accident and gets beaten up for it, but I don't think child molestation or incest are funny.
That's not to mention the rape snake from the Nadeko Snake arc, and two extended scenes from Nisemonogatari, wherein Shinobu, who is over 400 years old but is physically 8, bathes with Koyomi, as well as the infamous scene where he brushes his little sister's teeth and it looks like they're having oral. I have read an essay analyzing the fanservice in Nise, of all things, and apparently it's supposed to represent teenage sexuality. Okay, but that doesn't mean that I have to feel it's worth waxing philosophical about this aspect. Might as well apply that same logic to every ecchi harem out there.
The biggest problem I have with Monogatari, however, isn't inherent, since I've read some of the light novels and think they're okay, despite having these flaws.
The animation looks nice and clean (despite the obvious low budget resulting in all these still frames), however, it is also its biggest flaw (besides the fanservice).
Shaft has been using the same visuals for every Shinbo-directed show for several years (10-11 years as of the time of this review), but I feel that when making Monogatari, they rely on their visuals too much.
A lot of the time, during the dialogue scenes in Monogatari, they keep cutting to Dadaist visuals, text screens, weird camera angles and extreme closeups, which wouldn't be a problem, except that they focus on them for so long and so often, that it detracts from the experience. They go too overboard with those and fail to build up a good momentum for the pacing.
I don't judge a show based on the animation, as long as I'm interested in the story and the characters, but this is one case where I have the opinion that it detracts from everything else. In this case, I feel like the animation department is too busy showing off what I already know that they can do while not advancing the story in a significant measure in each episode with little pay-off, and that aspect is what I actually care about in a show. I've already seen this exact same type of animation in multiple other Shaft shows previously, so it doesn't do anything for me anymore, I'm not going to give it extra points.
Imagine if someone made an adaptation of a book, and instead of adapting the events of the book in a visual format, the adaptation entirely consisted of watching some guy sitting there, reading the book out loud. That's what watching Monogatari feels like.
In conclusion, I think that the Monogatari light novels are okay despite their flaws, but that Shaft's direction makes the anime boring to watch, and that I would have likely enjoyed the show more if it was made by another studio, or if Shaft hadn't gone so overboard with the animation to the extent that it detracts from everything else. The only reason I continue to watch it is just because I'm waiting for the moment where it finally lives up to its potential.
Monogatari is a love-it-or-hate-it show, watch it if you want, maybe you'll like it, but if you end up not liking it, I recommend watching Monster or Mushishi as preferable alternatives.
"Did you know every time you sigh, a little bit of happiness escapes?" - Senjougahara Hitagi, Episode 6
Well, you won't be sighing anywhere in this anime.
Bakemonogatari from the start can give the wrong impression to the viewer. They must be wondering, "Why is this rated so high, if it all it is, is just random words popping up on the screen?" However, it is a really good anime in its own weird way, and you're probably going to have to appreciate it that way as well.
Character: Usually, I'd start my review with the main part (story), but I believe the most important part of Bakemonogatari
is its character development. You have Koyomi Araragi, who interacts with 5 different girls throughout the story; the tsundere Senjougahara Hitagi, the cute and small Mayoi Hachikuji, the tomboy Kanbaru Suruga, the other cute loli Sengoku Nadeko, and the Queen of Fanservice Hanekawa Tsubasa. Oh yeah, I almost forgot Oshino Shinobu. Each interaction and arc is unique. From funny wordplay, to stapling someone in the mouth, the character development is what makes this series a really entertaining one. If Bakemonogatari didn't have a storyline at all (which it does), it would still be entertaining to watch.
Story: The first episode actually starts off with flashing scenes from Kizumonogatari, the prequel of Bakemonogatari. You have Koyomi Araragi, who was recently bit by a vampire. In the beginning of the story, he meets Senjougahara by catching her fall. Was that the right decision to make? Araragi himself says; "Not ignoring her was the right decision... I think" (Episode 1). She then tells him (in fact, forces him, by stapling the side of his mouth) to be quiet about her "incurable disease", but Koyomi insists on helping. He gets his friend who had helped him recover from the vampire attack; Oshino Meme. He specializes in supernatural problems to help not only her, but everyone else throughout the story. The series overall isn't a story-focused one. It's more focused on the character interactions. The interaction between Senjougahara and Araragi are always entertaining to watch.
Senjougahara: *to Araragi* "I'm suprised you know such useless things. This is the first time since birth that I've admired you."
Sound: The voices sound really nice, and the voice cast has a lot of popular names. The dialogue plays an important role is this anime, and is done really well, especially with its jokes. The OPs are really catchy (notable mention to Senjougahara's "Staple Stable" and Nadeko's "Ren'ai Circulation") and the ED (supercell - Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari) is just great.
Art: The art is somewhat similar to SHAFT's other work (as expected). It's almost like a mix of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei and Arakawa Under the Bridge, but everything is crisp and clear nonetheless. Another element that plays a huge role in Bakemonogatari is the flashing text and small detail that happens almost too frequently each episode. I think it is done well, and sets a mood for the episode. You don't have to stop and read everything, but the flashing words do provide some info and foreshadowing.
Enjoyment: Bakemonogatari has a lot of entertainment value, and all the elements combined make it a really good supernatural-romance-comedy. Each arc is enjoyable, and has a good amount of fan service for those who enjoy it. The romance was also done very well, which leaves the view with a warm feeling at the end. It took some time to get used to the weird flashing words in the beginning, but once you get used to it, you'll be in for an entertaining ride.